Neuqua Valley made the short trip to Waubonsie Valley on Thursday night with an atypical 2-4-0 record.
The Wildcats have started the season slowly, but a lot of that has been due to harsh competition. Their losses have come to Benet, Lyons Twp., Naperville North and defending Class 3A champion Morton, four programs that combined to post a 72-14-7 record a season ago.
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Thanks to a first-half score from junior Jake Loncar and a rebound tally from Jimmy Kotowski at the beginning of the second half, Neuqua Valley defeated Waubonsie Valley 3-1 in an Upstate Eight Valley match.
"The guys have worked hard, and I'm proud of the result," Neuqua Valley coach Skip Begley said. "We talked about losing four games and not losing them in great fashion, but there were things we saw in those games and we knew we were going to get better, and it showed tonight."
Neuqua Valley (3-4-0, 2-0-0) secured the momentum by taking the lead for good just 41 seconds into the final half.
Kotowski followed his own shot to put the Wildcats ahead 2-1.
"I had a shot and the keeper made a nice play and no one followed it," he said. "I hit another shot and was lucky enough to get the goal."
Kotowski also scored the game-winner during Saturday's 1-0 victory over York.
"He's one of those kids that gets up and scrambles," Begley said. "He's a grinder, the kind of kid a coach loves to see score a goal because he works his tail off."
Waubonsie Valley (4-2-1, 0-1-0) applied plenty of pressure late in the game, determined to notch the equalizer. The Warriors had their best threats over the final 10 minutes but failed to deliver. Some of their best chances were denied by Neuqua Valley goalkeeper Zach Goldstein.
"I think our guys have a lot of confidence in (Goldstein)," Begley said. "When a ball gets shot they just believe he's going to save everything. He was a solid player again for us in net."
The Warriors struck first when Vish Patel assisted on a Casey Bucz goal, but the Wildcats knotted things up when Eduardo Cruz fed Jake Loncar to make it a 1-1 contest.
"We started off great and then we let down and they took advantage," Waubonsie Valley assistant coach Jose Garcia said. "That's one of the great things about soccer because on any given day you can have a different winner."